BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
To millions of All in the Family fans, Sally Struthers will always be Archie Bunker’s daughter Gloria Stivic, who’s married to the Meathead.
“It’s funny to be 65 years old and be walking down the street,” Struthers now says. “Cab drivers stick their heads out and say, ‘Hey, little goil!’ ”
Struthers is at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center this weekend to perform her one-woman show, a reminiscence of her life and career before, during and after she co-starred in the 1970s’ most popular TV show.
“The story is about my life and career and laced with a sense of humor. A lot of it is self deprecating. I don’t take myself seriously in any way,” Struthers says. “People who’ve heard me tell my stories around a dinner table have said, ‘You should have a one-woman show.’ I thought, ‘This can’t be too hard.’ I sat down and wrote some notes. I call it my work in progress. The last year, I’ve done it three times. It’s entertaining. I can tell by people’s reactions. It’s not perfect, but what in life is?”
Struthers, the divorced mother of clinical psychologist Dr. Samantha Rader, says she spends much of her time these days traveling the United States, going from show to show.
“Since I don’t get residuals for All In the Family, I have to go out and make my mortgage payment,” she says bluntly.
By the time Norman Lear cast Struthers as Gloria in 1971, she was already a veteran of musical theater, had appeared in the Jack Nicholson film Five Easy Pieces and been a regular on The Tim Conway Comedy Hour.
“It was all serendipity,” she says of being cast at age 23 opposite Carroll O’Connor as Archie, Jean Stapleton as mom Edith and Rob Reiner as husband Mike. “Norman would like to slap himself on the back and say this combo was magic.”
There was no competition between the four because each actor was so different, Struthers says.
“We came from different religions, different status of income, different parts of the county,” she says. “Carroll O’Connor was Roman Catholic. Jean Stapleton was a Christian Scientist. Rob Reiner was the son of a rich man (writer-comedian Carl Reiner) who grew up in Beverly Hills. I came from Portland, Ore. I had never heard ethnic slurs.”
For most of its nine-season run, All in the Family revolutionized television by bringing ethnic and religious slurs and hot-button politics into American homes every Saturday night. The series ranked No. 1 from 1971-76.
Each weekly episode was performed twice before live audiences, and the final programs were edited from the two tapings.
Struthers said the tapings were nerve-racking.
“When they used to introduce us to the audience at CBS, my heart was racing. I felt like I would faint. The job required such precision,” says Struthers, explaining that each shot had to match exactly because of the complicated editing process.
“There was so much more to think about than your lines,” she says. “When I do my one-woman show, there isn’t going to be any editing. My heart doesn’t race anymore.”
Struthers left All in the Family as a regular in 1978 and made several guest appearances in Carroll O’Connor’s successor show, Archie Bunker’s Place. In 1982-83, she starred in her own spin-off series, Gloria.
Since then, Struthers has been a well-known spokeswoman for Christian Children’s Fund (now ChildFund International), appeared on television and on stage. In December, she pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence Sept. 12 in Ogunquit, Maine.
Says Struthers: “It was a brief story, and it’s over, and I rose from the ashes.”
IF YOU GO
Sally Struthers appears 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura. Tickets $34.50. www.aventuracenter.org.